While proofing Chris’ most recent book, Mighty Mind, the truth about shitty gyms struck me like a brick to the head.
After awaking from my brick (or espresso) induced coma, I had to stop the editing and make this quick post.
Why do most gyms suck?
Many people ask this question, and some of the common answers I’ve heard are:
- They don’t have the right equipment
- The trainers are idiots
- The people who attend are lazy
- Nobody knows what they’re doing
While there’s a bit of truth in all of these statements, I realized that I’d been missing the forest for the trees.
The real reason most gyms suck is…
Now maybe this statement doesn’t sound too profound at first, but let me elaborate.
A few things are extremely important when franchising:
- Cheap, Unskilled labor (low wages, easy to hire new people)
- Scalability (requires large suppliers)
- Safety (taken to the extreme at Planet fitness with their “lunk” alert)
- Profit (charge as much as possible, keep em as long as possible, sell as many add-ons as possible and supplements)
Why does your PT suck (*explicative omitted*) and charge a fortune?
Probably because they fit the “cheap, unskilled” labor rule for franchises. McDonalds is successful because they don’t require workers with Ph.Ds. Training time is minimal and people are easy to replace. The same likely goes for whoever spends their whole day washing towels and copying circuit programs at your gym. Maybe they sound like they know what they’re talking about, but so do psychics and neither have very demanding qualifications to spout off their thoughts.
Why is half the gym full of treadmills and the other half machines?
Treadmills are an excellent use of space, so put them along every wall you have while still having the same machines your nearest competitor maintains. Bigger space = more treadmills for sure; sometimes more equipment. There are more suppliers of machines than there are for power racks, strongman logs, atlas stones, chains, reverse hypers, etc. and this ties into the safety bit.
If your trainers suck, it’s not good to trust them to teach people how to squat in a free rack. Much better to put them on a machine that can only be worked one way. Sure, there are pullies which offer a bit more variety, but there’s usually only one pully, so when that’s occupied, it’s time for a circuit on the machines!
Why are memberships so expensive?
I took a tour around the new place I moved to last week (and I live in South Korea). The first gym was franchised – $10 a session and no better than any hotel gym in the USA. The second was franchised – $15 a session; full of small children, bosu balls and pink and blue neon lights — no thanks!
Then I went on google maps and investigated the rest in my area. I found an empty gym with plenty of space in a basement. No squat rack, but the best bench of any of the 3 places, it was empty all the time, and it was $3 a session.
Guess what… it wasn’t franchised!
I did zercher squats unracking from the bench, deadlifts from the floor were no problem of course, and as I said before, the bench was the best of all 3 (you could adjust the bar rack height). Sure, I had to clean the bar for front squats or presses, but that’s a fine temporary solution since I’ll only use this place occasionally on the weekend.
What’s the difference between the decent gym (and the good gym near my school with a power rack) and the others?
The good gym isn’t franchised
Just like Darkside of London, Westside, and the Gold’s Gym of old (in the past) – the real gyms are usually equipped and manned by people with a passion for iron. They buy what they need to get strong, ripped, or to be elite in their sport and THEN usually open their doors to financially support their addiction; not to sell snake oil for profit.
Join a franchised gym and most of the time you’re going to get bozos barely meeting the absolute minimum requirements who are happy to sell as many supplements as possible, run you through circuit training programs that give minimal results at best, and compliment you on your “good effort.”
The vast majority of franchises aren’t there to take you to your goals – they’re there to suck as much money out of your wallet as possible while doing just enough in terms of results to keep you coming.
While there are exceptions to every rule – these are exceptions! If you’re fortunate enough to train at a kick-ass franchised gym or have an amazing PT who knows SuperTraining inside-out, great!
But if you’re struggling to meet your goals, spending too much money or time at the gym, or even worse – getting hurt while training, ask yourself:
Is it franchised?